With the same exuberance she held for everyday life, her words riveted through the phone, “Mom, Ethan proposed!” I clasped my hands tightly over the phone, hoping to hold back my pain from pouring out on to her joy. Her excitement was oblivious to the emptiness of my response, and she went on. “We’re getting married in the temple, and I want you to be there. Of course, you can't come inside, but you can wait outside. Either way, I want you there.”
This is a moment for letting go, I thought to myself as I fought to drink in her excitement and assure her there was nothing that would keep me from sharing in her special day. When I hung up the phone, my mind tumbled back on other such milestones; her first day of school, leaving for camp, graduation, leaving for college. I had done it before, I could do it again.
But this was big. Enormous. Different.
See, our family is Christian; this is how I raised my children. But in the last few years, my daughter has chosen the Mormon religion as her faith. I respect her choice. I raised her to adulthood for reasons such as this; to be her own thinker, follow her heart and be confident in both. Matters such as faith are deeply personal, and one that I can no longer make on her behalf. But it didn't mean her decision would not affect my life.
Over the next few months, she tried to explain why her faith would not allow me to come inside the temple to witness her wedding (sealing), but I could not understand. I consoled myself in the fact that Ethan was a wonderful man, he adored her, and she was happy. I realized in order to move forward, I had to separate the love I held for my daughter from the hurt I was feeling for a church that said I was not worthy to enter a “House of the Lord”. My Lord.
As I write this, I am sitting on steps of the beautiful historic temple in Nauvoo, IL. The late November freeze is mild compared to the coldness of people rushing past me looking up toward three magnificent arches, heavy oversized doors, and interior warmth.
An elderly gentleman moving in the opposite direction stops where I sit and asks that I please stand when in the temple's presence and that I please not come into the alcove within the arches.
Every part of me wants to tell him I am a child of God, and God would welcome me into His house, but I pull to my feet, hold my thoughts, and assure him my respect. I see them in the distance, my daughter arriving with her soon to be father-in-law.
She is radiant. She stops before me, and we pull into each other's arms. I hold her tightly against my heart; I tell her I love her, and I let go.
Outside this cold temple, I wait while people who know her in faint brushstrokes witness as she exchanges sacred vows. I realize I wouldn't have missed this moment, even if I cannot witness it, because she is my daughter and that is what love does.
Love is a series of holding tightly and letting go.